Downtown redevelopment plan gets green light from Winnipeg’s property committee

A plan to reshape Winnipeg’s downtown over the next quarter-century took a step forward at city hall Thursday.

Council’s property and development committee held a hearing on CentrePlan 2050, with members of the public invited to share their thoughts.

The plan drew support from downtown advocates, but some questioned whether the city had the funding to make it work.

CentrePlan aims to build tens of thousands of new housing units, to increase the number of people living in the core. It sets the goal of creating 350 new housing units per year until the year 2030, and then 500 per year until 2050.

It would also dramatically reorient streets, with a greater focus on pedestrians. Streets would become narrower to encourage drivers to slow down, and have on-street parking, trees and pedestrian lighting.

Graham Avenue to be repurposed

One of the plan’s key elements is repurposing Graham Avenue as a pedestrian mall once buses are rerouted to Portage Avenue next year.

Kevin Donnelly, vice-president of True North Sports and Entertainment, spoke in support of the plan, but he worries about what will happen to Graham Avenue once the buses leave.

“With Graham — if you build it, they won’t just come. It has to be planned, and programmed, and executed, and that takes time and money,” he said.

City staff told the committee they have set aside $250,000 for programming once the buses leave Graham Avenue.

Other speakers raised concerns about how CentrePlan 2050 would affect vulnerable people living in the area.

One part of the plan focuses on redeveloping the area around Thunderbird House.

Main Street Project executive director Jamil Mahmood wants the city to view the area as a community.

“And make sure it has community amenities like public green spaces, places to gather, places to come together as a community, recreation spaces — all those things we don’t really have in this area,” he said.

The plan also offers ideas for expanded bike routes along St. Mary and York avenues, Notre Dame and Cumberland avenues and William Stephenson Way and Graham Avenue.

The property and development committee unanimously approved the plan on Thursday. It still needs final approval from council as a whole.